Imagine living in the 1900s as a professional photographer. People were overdressed, kids were running around the streets, not with knives or guns, but with sticks, chasing something crudely resembling a wheel. Yet, photographers everywhere were getting upset. Not only because of some "weekend warrior" undercutting them, but due to the fact that Kodak unveiled something that would forever shift the photographic market for decades to come...I'm talking of course, of the Box Brownie.
This little camera was released in the mid-1900s, and it forever changed the way society views photography as an art form. Gone, was the exclusivity of the photographer with his own portrait studio. Photography became accessible to the layman, wanting a quick snapshot of his family, of his new car, or of his lovely wife. All this, for a relatively low price and quick turnaround time. Suddenly the mysticism surrounding photography had disappeared as the masses became insta-photographers.
Let's fast forward a few years later. Ansel Adams invented and perfected the Zone System. Henri Cartier-Bresson took a photo of a guy skipping a puddle, and Jerry Uelsmann pulled a Dali in the form of a few film composites he created in the darkroom. Film photography became a pillar of our society. Even though it was more accessible to us than ever before, it still remained amongst a few as an exclusive and respected art form.
Then came the digital revolution.
Most photographers not wanting to adapt swore this was the death of photography. Yet, most photographers adapted and carried on producing incredible images. The advent of digital meant a quicker turn around time. Feeding the need for instant gratification in all of us. The old timers revolted. And swore they'd never convert.
I've been shooting on Canon 5D Mark II for the majority of my professional career as a photographer. And while there have been significant improvements in DSLR cameras over years, I've never felt the need to upgrade right away. Silly, you say? Sure, I love the latest addition to the Canon 5D line, but that first full frame I bought still gives me something no other camera can. I've been through so much with that camera and it always performed perfectly. We've been through hell and we made it back.
A month or so ago, I bought a new smartphone, jam packed with the latest sensor and features. While shooting a concert, I thought I'd take out the phone to see how it performs under the extreme conditions of a rock concert. Shooting at 1,600 ISO it performed better than my trusty Canon 5D Mark II. Sure, you say. Of course it would. It's almost a decade old.
Still, it wasn't my 5D. And while I was threatened by this small piece of machinery, it made me realize that this isn't the first time this has happened. Just like the 1900's when photographers felt threatened by the Box Brownie, I felt threatened by a device not even half that size. It just made me realize, this is not the age to be afraid.
This is the age where everything goes.
Nowadays, we have people shooting front covers of reputable magazines using the latest smartphones. Models with no photographic training are shooting campaigns we, as professional photographers wish we could shoot. We have cameras coming out with global shutters and sensors more sensitive than what the human eye can see. How on earth could we be threatened by this?
It reminds me of picking up my first digital camera. Some cheap 2-megapixel camera. I realized with this I could experiment and do things I haven't been able to do with the "outdated" technology we call film. I could immediately see the results and it wouldn't cost me a cent to experiment and shoot anything and everything. We could now easily create composites and multiple exposures just using software on our computers. But still, I felt a longing back to something I had known for years prior. And I wasn't the only one feeling this way.
Back in the day, we had the warm, comforting sounds that only a vinyl could create. It eventually evolved to tape and then switched over to digital format. Yet in the last few years reports came in that vinyl sales are actually overtaking CD sales.
This trend is not only limited to music. Dave Hill, the king of digital composites, shot some major campaigns using film in recent years. Harley Weir shot a Calvin Klein campaign entirely on film. Even David Bailey still swears by it.
And with all the digital advancements in our modern age. All the people swearing the death of photography is upon us, we still manage to carry on and produce amazing results. Not only did we adapt. We grew in our art form while not forgetting where it all started from.
So, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to the lab to go develop some film.